Gold Canyon, Az

Gold Canyon, Az
New Years Day 2015, Gold Canyon, AZ

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Los Algodones, Mexico

We had decided to meet Betty and Richard at their RV Park at about 10:00 for the short drive to California on I-8 and then south a few miles to cross the Colorado River into Mexico.  We had hoped to get there before the rush however when we pulled into the massive parking lot there was already a lineup.  Most of the tourists do not drive over the border, preferring instead to pay the $6.00 fee and leave the car on the US side and walk over.

Walking over the border to Mexico is no big deal.  No customs officers or checkpoints, just a few Mexican soldiers wearing fatigues with rifles slung over their shoulders and pistols on their hips.   For the most part they are too busy chatting with each other to present much of an intimidation factor.

As we walked down the narrow streets we were sure glad to have Betty and Richard as our guides.  The place is a maze of narrow streets and sidewalks lined with street vendors all trying to get your attention.  Each little shop is loaded with inventory from floor to ceiling.  In fact some inventory is spread out on the floor so that you have to watch where you walk and duck your head to keep from banging into merchandise hanging from the rafters.

Once you get used to every street vendor trying to get your attention, whether by eye contact or a cute comment it actually became fun checking things out and trying to come up with a unique phrase to turn them down.  Although I suspect they have heard it all and aren't phased by much.   They quickly picked up on the Jets T-Shirt I was wearing so I got constant references to the Jets or Bombers.  I also had my camera so my name became  Hey Paparazzi.

At no time did we feel threatened or unsafe and I would have no qualms of making another trip.  Lori on the other hand doesn't want to tempt fate.

Along with the vendors selling their wares are people asking you if you need dental work or glasses.  Dental work, eye exams and glasses as well as prescription drugs are big business.  From all accounts the work is good quality and cheap.  $20. to get your teeth cleaned.
 The sidewalks are lined with goods for sale with small shops in behind.  The shops are often dark with uneven cement or dirt floors so watch your step.
 Betty and Richard said they had never seen it so busy.  Jan, Feb and March are the busy season.

By the way, bring quarters.  It costs 50 cents to get into the bathrooms.
Here we got to see the manufacturing process of some of the pottery and metal work.  The only ones back here were us and the employees pouring greenware and fabricating metal works of art.
A little more rustic than my mothers ceramics studio but still brought back memories of my brother and I pouring greenware and loading kilns.
A master with a paint sprayer
This is where it was really handy to have someone with you who knew the place.  We walked into many shops, behind the counter, out the back door and wa-la.  A courtyard filled with new treasures.

These guys were absolute marvels with what they could do with a can of spray paint, a piece of paper, a scrunched up plastic bag and their finger.  No paint brushes.  We watched the guy to the right start this vase almost from scratch.  It was amazing what he could see in his mind and make come to life on the vase.
Betty is busy negotiating the price on a tree of life made of wire. He started at $35 and they ended up at $22. Everybody was happy once the bartering was done.
Lori bought a metal quail and had Betty do her negotiating for her. They thought they had a deal at $20. and then the fella added "plus $1 for a tip?"  She paid $21.
In one shop the guy was showing Lori and Betty a purse and he said "Let me show you this very special wallet.  It has a Mexican TV in it". He opens it up and there is a little vanity mirror.  They have a line for everything.

This guy inserted himself in my shot of the street and then wanted me to take a picture of him and a sample of the shrimp he was selling.  As I was walking away he ran after me with a piece of paper with his name written on it. He was yelling: Facebook, Facebook.  He wanted me to send him the picture on Facebook.

This is Richard and Betty's favourite restaurant.  We each had 2 shrimp tacos and the total came to $16 and I left $4 as a tip.
The place isn't licensed so Richard ran over to the liquor store across the street, bought a 1 Litre bottle of beer (the big green bottle on the table) and brought it back in a brown paper bag.  $3 for the beer. The restaurant owner opened it for us and we had a nice cold beer with our meal.
 A picture of the outside of the restaurant.
The shrimp taco was delicious.  Fresh shrimp and we watched the tacos being made and grilled right in front of us.
Most of the streets and courtyards are crowded with people and wares for sale however every once in a while you turn the corner and you find a nice quite piece of heaven.
We were done and headed back to the border.  We weren't the only ones.  Getting back into the US is a little more of a process.  The line took us 30 minutes which wasn't too bad given that there was a sun shade.  Once we got across the border we had our passports scanned and were greeted with pleasant customs agents with a few quick questions and we headed back to our vehicle.
Here is a view of the border from the US side.  On the right is the sidewalk that takes you past the fence and you walk right into Mexico.  No questions asked.
On the left is the US Customs building.

The Mexicans make this as easy and pleasant as possible cause if the Tourists get scared away Los Algodones would dry up and blow away.  The tourist section is about 4 square blocks and is filled with Snowbirds, vendors and a few panhandlers.  The police and some soldiers also have a visible presence just to let you know that they you are safe.  I don't know what is beyond these 4 blocks and I probably wouldn't venture any further into the town but for a day trip to experience something very different I would certainly do it again.